In this podcast, you’ll learn how to identify and speak about singular and plural nouns, including the tricky ones that many English learners sometimes make mistakes with.
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SINGULAR AND PLURAL NOUNS
To make singular nouns plural in English, we usually add -s or -es.
car – cars
podcast – podcasts
glass – glasses
class – classes
There are irregular plural nouns and you probably already know some of them:
man – men
woman – women
person – people (persons = extremely formal, for certain situations)
child – children
There are hundreds of irregular plural nouns. Here are some of the more common ones
Nouns ending in -f and -fe
Singular (-f, -fe) Plural (-ves)
Nouns Ending in -o
Plurals of words ending in -o are usually made by adding -es.
Singular (-o) Plural (-oes)
There are exceptions, particularly when words have been taken from other languages: pianos, photos, logos, kilos and zeros.
Some words accept both spellings:
mosquitos/mosquitoes, volcanos/volcanoes and tornados/tornadoes
Nouns That Change Vowels
Many English words become plural by changing their vowels, such as ‘oo’ to ‘ee’ or ‘an’ to ‘en’.
Singular Plural (vowel change)
Irregular Nouns That Change Substantially
For a variety of historical reasons, some words change in spelling substantially when made plural.
penny pence (in UK English)/pennies
Irregular Nouns That Do Not Change At All When Made Plural
Some English nouns are identical in both the singular and the plural forms. Many of these are names for animals.
Singular/ Plural (no change)
fish (fishes also exists)
buffalo (buffaloes also exists)
shrimp (shrimps also exists)
I have seen several deer when walking in the woods near here.
How many shrimp/shrimps did you catch?
Aircraft, watercraft, hovercraft, and spacecraft are all the same whether singular or plural.
The new aircraft was tested by an experienced pilot this morning.
The airline has a fleet of fifty aircraft.
NASA has made several different types of spacecraft in its fifty-nine-year history.
Plurals of Latin and Greek Words
There are certain words we use on a regular basis, especially in mathematical and scientific contexts, that are borrowed from Latin or Greek. Many of these words keep their Latin or Greek plurals in maths and science. Some of them also have anglicized plural forms that have come into common use.
Nouns Ending in -us
To make a word ending in -us plural, change -us to -i.
Many plurals of words ending in -us have anglicized versions, formed by simply adding -es. This often sounds more natural and informal.
Singular (-us) Plural (-i)
focus foci (also focuses)
radius radii (also radiuses)
octopus octopuses (or octopi)
hippopotamus hippopotami (or hippopotamuses)
Irregular Formation of Nouns Ending in -is
Nouns with an -is ending can be made plural by changing -is to -es.
Singular (-is) Plural (-es)
axis axes (this is also the plural of axe)
Irregular Formation of Nouns Ending in -on
These Greek words change their -on ending to -a.
Singular (-on) Plural (-a)
Entry to this university is based on the criteria published in the prospectus.
El Niño and The Gulf Stream are two phenomena that affect our climate.
Irregular Formation of Nouns Ending in -um
These Latin words can change their -um ending to -a.
Singular (-um) Plural (-a)
datum data (Some people use “data” as a singular too)
medium media (Some people use “media” as a singular too)
Scientists have discovered a completely new type of bacterium.
You should wash your hands to get rid of bacteria.
The data was/were added to the computer.
The media is/are always looking for a juicy scandal.
As he is completely deaf, he can’t communicate through the medium of sound.
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. Do you have an idea for a future podcast?
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